David Asher Spreads Out with On-U-Sound

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 712   By: Robert 'Bo' White

07th October, 2010     0

David Asher is a visionary artist who helped lift The Process to incredible success in the nineties. For Asher Reggae wasn’t just music, it was a movement that was both political and spiritual. Any of you who were able to witness the absolute purity of Bob Marley’s power and presence may understand Asher’s undying allegiance. Marley’s concerts were a clarion call for revolution, to liberate the mind, body and spirit from the shackles of oppression and injustice.

Marley’s music is based in Jamaican folk culture, mythology and religion - in essence, modern spirituals and songs of revolution. As Asher’s golden age with the Process evolved, he continued to create great music and never compromised his integrity to regain mass popularity. Instead he followed his own muse and never looked back.

His current transformation to reggae DJ is not too much of a stretch. Asher is more than a practioner and a student of reggae - he’s a rocking mad professor, teaching and prodding us about reggae, ska, dub, rocksteady, dancehall and reggae/soul fusion.     Reggae music’s influence in other countries includes the practice of toasting which gained prominence in New York City and eventually evolved into rapping.

Cool. Get ready for a testimonial that is every bit as inspired as the Rasta way of life – the spiritual use of cannabis and the rejection of Babylon

What prompted this project?

Asher: Well, to be honest I started listening to reggae music about 30 years ago, in the late 70’s. I was a big fan of anything that the independent rock label Island Records released. Island was run by a guy named Chris Blackwell. He was an Anglo Jamaican with very eclectic tastes.

Blackwell started releasing Ska (an uptempo early precursor of reggae) singles in the 60’s in Jamaica and then eventually discovered Steve Winwood with The Spencer Davis Group. From there he branched out in to rock music with acts like Traffic, Roxy Music, John Martyn, Jethro Tull and the like.

In the 70’s he signed alot of great reggae artists, starting with Jimmy Cliff. The most successful group obviously, was Bob Marley and The Wailers. Although I was aware of Peter Tosh and a few other artists, I was pretty much clueless to the vastness of Jamaican music.

It wasn’t until Bob passed in 1981, that I began to understand that there were hundreds, thousands of talented reggae artists.

I have to give some credit for that realization, to a guy named “Pic” who had a record store in old town Saginaw that stocked lots of reggae. He also had a Sunday Reggae show on an urban radio station in Saginaw in the early 80’s. Between Pic and my old friend Freddie Reif, those two clued me in to what I was missing.

Over the years I’ve amassed a pretty good-sized collection of reggae music, transferring a lot of vinyl to compact disc. Greg Kimbrue (of The Kingfish Bar) was the first person to suggest I start to DJ reggae, about 10 years ago. Greg has always worked to spread reggae’s vibes and I’m grateful to him for that.

Who inspired you?

Asher: well, the amazing talent of reggae artists constantly inspires me the world over. Not just the incredible artistry of the West Indian Diaspora but artists in England, Africa, Japan, everywhere music is played, people are taking reggae to higher heights.

On a personal level, the message of Rastafari, truth, rights, justice, equality,
inspires and encourages me.

What is your vision or goal?

Asher: Mostly, I’m kind of like a revival selector. I specialize in cultural roots reggae music from the era that I love, the late 70’s and early 80’s. However, I do mix it up with old Ska from the early 60s and more modern cultural artists from today’s sounds, as well as Dub, reggae’s remix music. There are also a lot of great newer artists like Bushman, Sizzla and others, carrying the vanguard of modern roots reggae.

What do you want to accomplish?

Asher: Shaolin Sound bought our own DJ rig last summer and we started taking it more seriously. I would like to share reggae music with as many people as I can, so that they can get the message to uplift their spirits. There is so much negativity nowadays, people need a positive vibration and that is what Reggae is.

What does Shaolin stand for?

Asher: Shaolin may refer to: Shaolin Monastery, or Shaolin Temple, a Buddhist monastery in Henan province, China,  or Shaolin Kung Fu, the school of martial arts associated with the monastery. Remember “King Fu”, with David Carridine?

How does this performance art differ from singing in a band?

Asher: Well, to be honest, it’s much more relaxed for me. THE PROCESS performs at a very intense level and when I DJ, I’m just sharing the music, enjoying the vibes myself. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to perform with the band but Djing is more easygoing, relaxing even, haha!

Do you write the music?

Asher: Well, I do play some music by THE PROCESS and some special pre-release stuff.
Overall however, I’m playing music by as wide a variety of artists as possible.  I like to showcase sounds from the British label On-U Sound. On-U’s collective has backgrounds in Punk, Reggae and Funk, so they aren’t exactly traditional reggae. This is the 30th anniversary of the label and so the time is perfect to do it. I was surprised and excited by how many people in Saginaw were familiar with On-U founder Adrian Sherwood’s work. People in Saginaw know good music.

Any collaborators?

Asher: Well, I work closely with Seth Payton (Stamp’D, Master 6). He pretty much co-selects with me. He keeps it fun and we have a lot of laughs! Seth brings the more rocky music like 311 and stuff like that.

We have also been working with a guy called DJ Lionheart from New York City.
I do plan on having others selectors come in, so if fans of reggae music are interested come down and get involved. I’m looking forward to spreading the reggae vibes at White’s and across Mid-Michigan

David Asher and On-U-Sound will be featured on Wednesday, October 20th at White’s Bar in Saginaw.  Check the Review for future appearances.


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